Changes in law proposed to shelter tribal IDPs
RECENTLY a displaced person was killed and two others received injuries when violence broke out at a distribution point at the sprawling Jalozai Camp for IDPs. While the protesting IDPs blamed the official guards present there for opening fire at the people gathered there to collect sanitation kits, the concerned authorities denied the charge.
In April this year Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan had taken suo motu notice of the inadequate facilities available to the IDPs at the Jalozai Camp. The court has expressed apprehensions that the plight of these IDPs might result in any untoward incident.
The apprehension of the court proved correct when the said incident took place at Jalozai.
From time to time the high court continued to issue directives to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) and the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) regarding provisions of certain facilities to the IDPs, but the pace of
implementing the court orders always remained slow.
A responsible official of the PDMA on April 24 made commitment before a two-member bench of the high court that within a week electric fans would be provided to around 11,000 families at the camp. Interestingly, when the high court again took up the case for hearing on July 12 it was informed that so far fans had been provided only to around 3,000 families out of the total around 12,000 families and the remaining families would be provided electric fans before the commencement of Ramazan.
Presently, the Jalozai Camp has mostly been sheltering IDPs from Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency. It is still not known for how long the conflict in Bara area would continue, but keeping in view the situation on ground it could be assumed that the conflict there is far from over.
The IDPs from tribal areas have been facing difficult situation also because of their geographic location. While they belong to Fata they had taken refugee in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and legally it is not clear as which of the authority is responsible to look after these IDPs, the FDMA or the PDMA. During previous hearing the high court directed the FDMA to share the responsibility with the PDMA.
Presently, the law dealing with the disasters, both natural and manmade, is the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA), 2010, which after its passage by the Parliament received the assent of the president on Dec 8, 2010. Prior to the enactment of this law the then government had promulgated the National Disaster Management Ordinance in 2006 after the devastating earthquake of 2005. That ordinance was re-promulgated several times as the constitutional life of the ordinance was four months and was finally tabled before the Parliament and the NDMA was enacted.
This Act includes both natural and man-made disasters. It defines disaster as “a catastrophe, or a calamity in an affected area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident which results in a substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property.” Moreover, under the law an “affected area” means an area or part of the country affected by a disaster. The law clearly spells out “disaster management” as “managing the complete disaster spectrum including: preparedness; response; recovery and rehabilitation; and, reconstruction.”
The law provides for establishment of National Disaster Management Commission with scores of dignitaries as its members. The prime minister is the ex-officio chairperson of the commission. While the commission is supreme policy making body its meetings are held very rarely which clearly depicts how much priority is being given to disaster management. The Act also provides for establishment of the disaster management authorities on national, provincial and district level.
As displacement has become a routine phenomenon in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is now need of the hour to amend the law so as to include specific provisions regarding IDPs. The present law does not include even a definition of an IDP.
Section 11 of the Act makes it binding on the national authority to make guidelines for the provision of relief to the affected persons. It states: “Subject to directions of the National Commission, the National Authority shall lay down guidelines for the minimum standards of relief to be provided to persons affected by disaster which shall include: the minimum requirements to be provided in the relief camps in relation to shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation; the special provisions to be made for vulnerable groups; ex gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance on account of damage to houses and for restoration of means of livelihood; and, such other relief as may be necessary.”
On the international level also there is no legal instrument specifically dealing with the issue of IDPs, which is binding on the member states. In 1998 the UN drafted the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement which is a non-binding set of guidelines including 30 principles addressing different issues and stages of displacement.
These principles define IDPs as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised State border.”
It further provides: “The authorities undertaking such displacement shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to the displaced persons, that such displacements are effected in satisfactory conditions of safety, nutrition, health and hygiene, and that members of the same family are not separated.”
Following the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, 2010, disaster management is now a provincial subject and the provincial assemblies are now being empowered to make amendments in the NDMA 2010. It will now be appropriate for the government to amend the law so as to clearly define an IDP as well as to spell out in clear terms in the law as to which of the authorities would be responsible to look after the displaced persons from Fata when they take shelter in settled districts.